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Judas Horse: An FBI Special Agent Ana Grey Mystery    by April Smith order for
Judas Horse
by April Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

For her fourth novel, April Smith offers up another winner with Judas Horse, the tale of an FBI agent's infiltration into a group of domestic terrorists who seem to be determined - at any costs - to protect animal rights.

When the action of Judas Horse begins, FBI Special Agent Ana Grey has just returned to active duty in Los Angeles after reluctantly taking time off because of her involvement in a shooting incident. Ana has now been recruited and will be trained for an extremely dangerous assignment, one that has already meant the death of Steve Crawford, an FBI agent who had been Ana's close friend: Ana will go undercover - assuming a new identity as Darcy DeGuzman - and find out what is going on within FAN (Free Animals Now), a group of violent anarchists and home-grown troublemakers in Oregon. The FBI is especially concerned about the level of FAN's intentions with respect to the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro Program.

Once in position in Portland, Oregon, Ana wastes no time successfully ingratiating herself among key players in the FAN group. Soon, though, Ana finds herself severely tested when she is forced to turn a blind-eye to crimes and ordered to be the shooter in the assassination of a Bureau of Land Management official.

At the same time, Ana begins to realize that Julian Emerson Phelps, the leader of the FAN group, is an extremely dangerous man whose prior identity and profession is a surprise to everyone involved in the investigation; moreover, Phelps is planning something very big and is very much 'like another David Koresh.' Ana worries that it is only a matter of time until the FBI and the FAN group may be tragically and murderously embroiled in a Waco-like showdown. What Ana also realizes - perhaps too late - is that someone well-placed within the FBI may be conspiring with one or more of the people in the FAN group, and that pernicious conspiracy is part of a growing pattern of deceit, mayhem, betrayal, and death.

Dynamic and provocative in its topical focus, Judas Horse is a well-done, action-packed mystery featuring a spirited and resourceful protagonist. Readers looking for a fast-paced thriller dominated by finely crafted characterizations and plenty of surprises should thoroughly enjoy April Smith's Judas Horse.

2nd Review by Mary Ann Smyth:

A Judas Horse is used to entice rogue horses into a pen. The FBI plans to use Agent Ana Grey as a Judas Horse. She is to go undercover as Darcy DeGuzman and infiltrate the domestic terrorist cell Free Animals Now. An agent has been killed and the FBI seeks proof that FAN is responsible. Darcy is to find that proof and help capture the group which includes an ex FBI agent.

Judas Horse is an exciting read with plenty of action to please any thrill seeker. Ana has been put in jeopardy seemingly without much regard for her safety. She manages to immerse herself in Darcy, while never forgetting who she is in her other life. Can she trust her instincts? Is the FBI playing the game by the rules? The plot of this thriller is generally tight. The characters seem very real, although disappointing at times when self interest takes over their actions.

April Smith's Judas Horse represents good writing and a very good read.

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